Three down, one to go for Bulldogs

2011 Calder Cup Playoffs

Nigel Dawes scored his second goal of the game at 9:11 of the second overtime, sending Hamilton to a 5-4 road win over Houston on Sunday at the Toyota Center in Game 6 of the Western Conference Finals.

The Bulldogs, who once trailed this series by a 3-0 count, have rallied to force a decisive Game 7 on Tuesday night in Houston.

Hamilton joins the 1960 Rochester Americans and the 1989 Adirondack Red Wings as the only clubs in AHL history to win three straight games in a best-of-7 series after falling into a 3-0 hole; both the Amerks and Red Wings completed the comeback by winning Game 7.

Dawes, who also scored in the second period to give Hamilton a 3-2 lead at the time, was assisted on the game-winner by linemates Aaron Palushaj and Dustin Boyd. It marked the 14th postseason goal for Dawes, setting a Bulldogs franchise record and tying him with Binghamton’s Ryan Potulny for the league lead this spring.

Andreas Engqvist also scored twice for the Bulldogs, registering his third and fourth goals of the postseason. An unassisted shorthanded goal by Engqvist just 27 seconds into the third period gave Hamilton a 4-2 lead and seemed to put the Bulldogs’ on course for a regulation victory.

But defenseman Nate Prosser pulled Houston within 4-3 by netting his first career playoff goal at 11:02, and Jed Ortmeyer tied it up with just 1:5 left in regulation. Colton Gillies and Warren Peters assisted on both of those goals for the Aeros.

The Aeros went 0-for-3 on the power play during the overtime periods, and Hamilton was 0-for-2 before the even strength by Dawes midway through the second extra session. The Bulldogs improved to 2-1 in overtime this postseason and a perfect 4-0 in elimination contests.

Boyd finished with a goal and an assist for Hamilton; defenseman Frederic St. Denis chipped in two assists; and Bulldogs goaltender Drew MacIntyre made an AHL playoff-high 57 saves to improve to 10-2 lifetime when facing Calder Cup Playoff elimination.

Chad Rau and Warren Peters rounded out Houston’s offense in the losing effort, as the Aeros fell despite holding a commanding 61-38 edge in shots on goal, which includes a 32-10 margin during the second and third periods combined.

The winner of Tuesday’s Game 7 will hold home-ice advantage against the Binghamton Senators in the 2011 Calder Cup Finals.

Western Conference Finals – Series “N” (best-of-7)
W2-Houston Aeros vs. N1-Hamilton Bulldogs
Game 1 – Fri., May 13 – HOUSTON 2, Hamilton 1
Game 2 – Sun., May 15 – HOUSTON 3, Hamilton 2
Game 3 – Tue., May 17 – Houston 3, HAMILTON 2
Game 4 – Wed., May 18 – HAMILTON 8, Houston 1
Game 5 – Fri., May 20 – HAMILTON 4, Houston 2
Game 6 – Sun., May 22 – Hamilton 5, HOUSTON 4 (2OT)
Game 7 – Tue., May 24 – Hamilton at Houston, 8:05